The history of the postcard-pretty town of Lecce stretches right back to the Greek empire, when it was known as Messapi. Later, it was an important trading post in Roman times before becoming a center of learning in the Middle Ages. Today, it is famed for its peerless Baroque architecture, and there’s no better place to experience Lecce’s past than at the Museo Faggiano, an eccentric little museum hidden away in a backwater townhouse.
Once behind the unassuming façade, a whole new world opens up; the museum reveals layer upon layer of the town’s past over several levels unearthed during excavations. Presented against a backdrop of bare plaster walls marked with inscriptions from the Knights Templar, discoveries include a Roman altar, a well that reaches down to the underground river Idume, medieval walls, the remnants of a convent and a subterranean passageway thought to run all the way to the center of the town. Scattered among the pottery shards, cisterns and crumbling statues on display are some grisly horrors, including the tomb of a newly born baby and bones from corpses buried by the nuns.
Museo Archeologico Faggiano is found at Via Ascanio Grandi 56 in Lecce. It is open daily from 9:30am to 1pm and from 4 to 8pm. Admission costs €3.